“All of you young people who served in the war,” said Gertrude Stein to Ernest Hemingway, “you are a lost generation.” The experience of the First World War provided fodder for a deluge of writers and artists like W. Somerset Maugham and Otto Dix. A frontline ambulance driver like Maugham, Ernest Hemingway is remembered among his generation for pointedly describing the trauma of war in A Farewell to Arms. The Illinois-born writer, once badly wounded on the Italian Front, published the semi-autobiographical work in 1929, the same year that Erich Remarque published All Quiet on the Western Front.
Hemingway claimed to have rewritten A Farewell to Arms’ heartrending conclusion thirty-nine times until he was satisfied. This week, Scribner released a new edition of the book with forty-seven alternate endings that were recovered from Hem’s papers. The update hopes to alter the author’s legacy, which is often trivialized by his penchant for heavy-drinking and hard-headed masculinity. For those fond of or unfamiliar with Hemingway’s work (or who are merely acquainted with his laconic drinking saws), the updated version could be a good buy for a day at the beach. It sports a new introduction, passages that did not make the final cut, and a list of unused titles.